Heather sat by her pond with her fishing rod carelessly planted in the slush. Occasionally a fish would bite thanks to her class skill, Fisherman's Bounty, but she didn't reel them in and simply sat on the bench and watched the fish peacefully swimming around in the water.
At this point, a lot of the snow had melted, and from the looks of it, the fish in the half-frozen pond were all white or blue in colour and they seemed to be specific breeds meant for extremely cold climates. Heather could tell this due to one of her other class skills, Fish Identification.
The fish moved and danced with each other in pairs. Apparently, it was mating season for these particular fish. Heather watched them with glazed over eyes as another foolish one who hadn't found a partner yet got itself stuck on her fishing rod's hook.
"Heather?" a weak and feminine voice called out to the red-headed woman.
Turning around, Heather saw Ellie standing in the slush a few feet away with a depressing look on her face. "Oh, it was you. Have a seat, Ellie," Heather said as she gestured to the other side of the bench next to herself.
"Mmm," Ellie mumbled before she walked over and cleared away the melting snow with her sleeve.
It was a bit cold and wet to sit on, but Ellie hardly cared and ignored that as she joined Heather in watching the fish.
Several minutes passed in silence as they awkwardly tried to think of something to say.
One was the dearly beloved daughter of the late Ger Richie while the other was his friend and someone who held certain feelings for him. Neither knew how to start a conversation with the other.
"I'm sorry for-"
"I'm sorry for-"
The two women looked at each other stiffly and then laughed. Heather waved her hand. "Please, you go first."
Ellie shook her head. "It's fine, please, Heather, you go first."
Gazing at the girl who was ten years younger than herself, Heather decided not to stand on ceremony any longer. "I'm sorry for getting your dad killed."
"... What?" Ellie didn't know what to say. At the very least, she hadn't expected Heather to take the blame for the Phoenix's actions, that was for sure.
Heather looked back down at the pond and explained. "Before he left the dungeon to go fight, I had a bad feeling. A really bad feeling. I told Ger about it, but he brushed it off. I should have kept pestering him. Maybe if I'd been more aggressive he would have listened and not fought with everyone else..."
Ellie remained quiet and got up. She walked to the edge of the frozen pond and crouched down before she stared into the water. "If Dad wasn't there, then maybe it would have been both Sis and me, or maybe no one would have died. It's hard to tell."
"Ellie?" Heather asked with a confused look on her face.
Without turning around Ellie continued, "Dad wouldn't have wanted you to feel guilty, Heather. The blame game is endless. It doesn't matter where you point a finger, you can always put someone else at fault if you really try to."
Ellie broke the ice with the help of Mini Daz who was floating around her and she then placed her hand in the chilly water. "It's cold." She swished her fingers around a bit before she sighed and stood up.
Turning around to face Heather, Ellie said, "I wanted someone to blame, someone to vent my grief onto. I wanted to be a victim, but I know Dad and Sis wouldn't have wanted that. I cried for hours, and you know what? I didn't feel any better afterwards. It still hurts, it hurts more than anything in the world. But blaming someone else for what was an accident won't make me feel any better, that's what I believe."
Heather was rendered speechless for a moment before she smiled weakly. "You're right. Still, I can't shake these feelings of guilt..."
Ellie walked over to Heather and knelt down to be level with the bench before she hugged her. "I'm the same. We just have to move past it and not let it drag us down as we remember them."
"You're strong, you know that, don't you, Ellie? Ger would have been proud," Heather said as a few tears rolled down her cheek and onto Ellie's shoulder.
"You think? Hahaha..." Ellie laughed softly.
A few moments passed before their warm embrace ended and Heather wiped her wet cheeks with the sleeve of her coat. "You said you wanted to apologise for something as well?"
Sitting back down, Ellie replied, "I heard from some of the other people that you and Dad were... close. I'm sorry I couldn't keep him safe and return him to you. He seemed happy around you, or at least that's what I'd heard..."
"Hey, aren't you blaming yourself now?" Heather noted with a semi-playful tone.
With a soft smile, Ellie said, "I suppose I am, aren't I?"
The two laughed and began sharing stories about Ger and other events in their life before the apocalypse. It wasn't an ideal start to a relationship, but at the very least, their shared connection to Ger had lead to some light being shed on this abysmally dark situation.
Daz stepped back into his cabin after he had finished his conversation with Reika on the shipping container, and he noticed that Rose was trying to cook something as she was mumbling under her breath while Madison sat on a sofa with her Plushie of him held tightly in her arms.
Daz went over to the couch and sat next to Madison who immediately cuddled up to him. He kissed her lightly on the cheek, forcing her face to blush over slightly before he glanced at Rose and asked, "What are you cooking?"
"Food," was her immediate response.
Rose quickly began mumbling again and returned her focus to the ingredients. Daz wrinkled his brows at the snarky response. "You mispronounced 'poison'."
"Very funny. By the way, apparently, Camp Waterford still hasn't finished their attack and several soldiers are dying every few minutes. You might want to go save them," Rose announced calmly.
Daz stood up instantly. "You could have told me that sooner."
"I only found out a few minutes ago. It's a wild event to help them with their attack, apparently," Rose said.
"Come on Maddy, grab your sword. We're going now," Daz said as he began leaving the cabin.
Maddy nodded her head and ran into their bedroom before returning with her weapon and following Daz out. A small smile was on her lips the entire time because she was happy that Daz had remembered to bring her the next time he left Fort Skip.
As they were running, Madison said to Daz, "Trucks?"
Shaking his head, he replied, "The streets are too cluttered with debris and crashed cars. It'll be faster if we run at full speed."
Madison nodded. Her blank expression didn't show much, but Daz could tell that she fully understood him and his reasoning.
The pair ignored the citizens and soldiers they ran past and simply left the Fort without a word. Were it any other people trying to do this, The gate guards would have stopped them, but Daz was the only person who naturally had permission to leave the Fort without anyone's consent and this rule also applied to anyone with him.
General Miller looked around a bit hopelessly as he and his men were being assaulted incessantly by a large group of what looked to be some sort of Lizardmen.
The entire area surrounding them had turned into a swamp and movement was difficult while the marshy trees made shooting their guns a far more difficult task than it had been on the other attack days.
"Ahhh! My eye! My eye!" a soldier screamed as one of the Lizardmen forced its claw into the man's head and ripped one of his eyeballs out before it ate it gleefully.
General Miller rushed over to them and fired at the Lizardman with his assault rifle to stun it before he dropped his gun and whipped out a combat knife which he used to pierce the creature's brain after shoving his entire hand in its open mouth.
"Run back to the camp if you can't fight anymore! If you can't run, then crawl!" General Miller shouted at the man who was desperately clutching his empty eye socket as he wailed in pain.
The man scrambled to his feet and sprinted back towards the fenced military camp. A Lizardman in the backlines of their attacking force spotted this and decided to throw a spear at the fleeing soldier.
"Urg," General Miller grunted as he grabbed the weapon midair and felt the force of it rip the flesh from his hand.
'Fuck! We should have allied with that lunatic sooner if it meant we wouldn't have to die to these... these monsters!' As far as Greg was currently concerned, siding with a sane monster was better than dying to a bunch of otherworldly ones.
The previously unmoving Chieftain of these reptiles had noticed that Greg was very strong, for squishy flesh people at least, and so far, he had successfully killed fourteen of his tribesmen while saving eight of the other squishy flesh people.
This caused the Chieftain to frown, and so he decided to finally join the attack. He launched himself at the General and roared powerfully before he swung his jagged sword of bones down onto General Miller's head.
Dodging by a fraction of a hair's length, Greg could feel cold sweat dripping down his back. He fired his assault rifle right into the Chieftain's chest, but the bullets didn't even dent its skin like they had done so to the smaller Lizardmen.
Something that resembled a laugh echoed out of the Chieftain's scale-covered face before he used his free hand to ruthlessly slap Greg, sending him flying across the swamp and crashing into a large tree.
Greg coughed out a mouthful of blood as his eyes lost all of the hope that they might have held a few minutes ago. 'Six fractured ribs, a broken arm, a headache and my vision is going hazy... Fuck... This is where I die, isn't it? I wanted to at least show Dorian that I truly was sorry... Son...'
Greg closed his eyes as the Chieftain slowly walked towards him. He had accepted his fate. 'I only... I only wish that the citizens can run away in time...'
A few seconds later, he could hear the sound of the Lizardman Chieftain raising his sword, however, the sound of it swinging down to kill him never came, oddly enough.
Opening his eyes cautiously, Greg saw something unbelievable. A short girl no older than twenty was effortlessly holding back the Chieftain's sword with her own beautiful longsword. A split second later, the Chieftain's jagged sword was absorbed into the blonde-haired girl's weapon.
The Chieftain looked confused first before that confusion mutated into pure rage. He threw a punch strong enough to topple a building at this girl, but somehow, she managed to nimbly dodge it and counter-attack.
Her sword effortlessly cut through the Lizardman Chieftain's neck and separated his head from his neck, instantly killing him. "Laceration," the girl mumbled as she returned her sword to her sheath.
She looked at Greg with an expressionless face. "In, time. Not, dead. Good."
Greg didn't understand what she meant, but his attention was drawn away from her as soon as he saw a familiar figure running through the swamp with a blood red shovel in his hands.
"Ha... ha... ha... I never... thought I'd... be happy to see... that jackass... ever again..." Greg muttered as he lost consciousness.
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- The Scottish Slothy Sloth
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